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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-12-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 19, 2002
 PM: Solution to Cyprus, differences with Turkey, will boost economic growth
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday linked increased social spending with a resolution to the long-standing Cyprus issue and the prospect of ever-improving Greek-Turkish relations, saying extra funds from defense cutbacks will inevitably be shifted, among others, to the health and education sectors and also beef up economic growth.
Speaking at a luncheon organized by the Foreign Press Association of Greece (FPA), Simitis also stressed that a country’s foreign policy ensures and safeguards its economic potential.
Specifically, the Greek premier noted that “tension and confrontations” funnel the country’s energy and attention in other directions, instead of putting the emphasis on various domestic concerns.
Simitis cited what he called a noteworthy increase in Greek exports to other Balkan countries, while adding that Athens will step up initiative dealing with the Balkans during its upcoming EU presidency, particularly its ambitious participation in the Balkan Stability Pact.
Along those lines and in answer to a press question, Simitis said he believes Croatia, for instance, could post the same rates of progress in its accession course as Bulgaria and Romania – while clarifying that this is a personal view and that the entire issue falls within the Union’s procedures.
Cyprus: Regarding the timely Cyprus issue, thrust onto Europe’s attention recently during the run-up to a landmark decision by the 15-member bloc last week to invite the island republic and another nine candidate-states to join the Union, Simitis said the Greek side wants a solution before Feb. 28. “However, if the other side refuses negotiations, there will be no negotiations”.
Asked about a possible treaty citing guarantees by other powers, Simitis he would prefer that guarantor powers not exist, as Cyprus’ EU accession means that the island republic itself can ensure the safety of its citizens. Nevertheless, he said Athens would not object if a revision of the Treaty of Guarantee is deemed absolutely necessary.
In other matters, Simitis said the Greek EU presidency will organize the Union’s military presence in the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as well as its participation in a multinational peacekeeping force in Bosnia, with the beginning of June figuring as the target date for a completion of troops’ deployment.
Among others, he noted that a EU-US summit is planned for the end of June, whereas a EU-Russia summit will take place at the end of April in order to coincide with celebrations marking the 300-year anniversary since the metropolis’ founding.
Finally, Simitis appeared to shy away from a recent high-profile statement by veteran French statesman Valery Giscard d’Estaing – the head of the Convention on the Future of Europe – aimed initially against Turkey’s possible membership in the European Union. Simitis merely pointed to Greece’s slogan for its presidency, “Our Europe”, before saying that an overall improvement throughout Europe will be beneficial to each individual member-state and its long-term prospects.
 Simitis deflects notion of economic recession, says growth rate high
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday deflected suggestions pointing to an ongoing economic downturn, saying instead that current developments are favorable for the country as national and European priorities appear to be converging, while decisive steps are planned for 2003 and 2004.
Speaking during a luncheon organized in the Greek capital by the Foreign Press Association of Greece (FPA), he stressed that the economy remains ruling PASOK’s “trump card” and has not become its “weak point”, noting that opposing views have resulted from the “major steps” taken in the economy, leading citizens to judge things “not by criteria of the past, but with their expectations of the future”, as he said.
He also observed that Greece has the second highest annual growth rate (3.8 percent) in the European Union, noting that the growth rate is the absolute index that determines the economy’s future.
He referred to recession in the European Union as well as the United States as contributing to current problems in the Greek economy, although he said the country is also an exception due to the fact that still records high rates of investment and increased growth rates.
Simitis accepted the fact that the country is deficient on many points vis-a-vis other countries, although he reminded that Greece was even further back than it is now and that the government is making every effort to overcome such deficiencies, something that is gradually occurring. In offering a future estimate, he said GDP growth in Greece will reach the 5-percent mark over the next two years, when more 3rd CSF programs come on line.
He also conceded that high inflation – amongst the highest in the ‘euro zone’ – is a problem for the country, although he said high growth rates fuel inflation, citing Ireland’s example.
In answer to a question regarding state-run Olympic Airways, Simitis said a new carrier will emerge in the next few months to assume the debt-ridden company’s flight operations, whereas the “old OA” will be led to liquidation. However, he stressed that no layoffs will occur.
In reference to other topics, Simitis said he backed a decision to exclude broadcast cameras from the upcoming trials of several “November 17” terrorist suspects, saying that the presence of TV crews would interfere with the trial, while all proceedings are open to the public. “Television coverage is not necessary for fair trials to take place,” he added.
In echoing a statement he made following the conclusion of last week’s Copenhagen Summit, Simitis said he was not elected to follow the polls, rather “the people elected me to formulate and implement policies based on my convictions”.
Finally, asked about possible cooperation between ruling PASOK and leftist powers, he said this prospect can wait, as issues related to the Copenhagen Summit dominated the government’s attention of late.
ND spokesman comments on PM's speech at FPA luncheon: Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, commenting on the speech Prime Minister Costas Simitis gave at a luncheon organized by the Foreign Press Association of Greece (FPA) in Athens on Wednesday, said that after 20 years of PASOK in power, Simitis, prime minister for six years, ''is seeking, as he always does, an alibi for his failure to solve the problems which the citizens are facing.''
He added:''Sometimes, 'the other Greece' is to blame. Sometimes, the governments since the establishment of the Greek State are to blame. Sometimes, the international crisis is to blame. Today, we heard that the irrational awaiting of the population is to blame.''
According to the ND spokesman, ''Mr Simitis is at a tragic impasse,'' because ''he is aware that he himself and his government have exhausted the endurance and tolerance of the Greek people.''
Replying to Roussopoulos' remarks, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said:''Twenty years with PASOK, six years with Costas Simitis, Greece is changing, it is making leaps forward. We are not surprised that the ND does not comprehend it. In any case, if it did comprehend it, it would not be in the opposition for so many years. We leave it at its impasse and its petty politics. We are forging ahead with the people, for the Greece we envision.''
 European Parliament examines Copenhagen summit results
PARIS 19/12/2002 (ANA - O. Tsipira)Danish Prime Minister Anders Rogge Rasmussen said on Wednesday the European Union's Copenhagen summit has a ''clean result'' to present since negotiations were completed with 10 new member-states, allowing the common dream to become a reality.
The outcome of the summit and an evaluation of the EU's Danish presidency dominated the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg, while Rasmussen gave an account of his country's presidency.
Referring to Cyprus, Rasmussen said ''it will join as a divided island'', but added that the possibility exists of a spherical solution before February 28, based on the UN secretary general's proposals.
He further said all sides are called upon to take ''a unique opportunity to solve this tragic confrontation. We shall all gain if a solution is achieved immediately. However, nobody will gain more than the people of Cyprus.''
On the question of the Convention for the Future of Europe, Rasmussen said it will have to present the results of its work before the Thessaloniki summit (due to take place in June).
European Commission President Romano Prodi said that at the Copenhagen summit nothing was a foregone conclusion until the end and everything was up in the air.
He added that the Copenhagen summit succeeded in almost all sectors, with Cyprus being the only exception where a solution was a breath away.
Prodi said the accession of the new countries creates new neighbors in the EU, who are attracted by the possibilities it provides.
He further said the countries of the western Balkans are part of this framework, five of which have already sent letters expressing interest in future EU accession.
Prodi said it is a prospect, which should not be ignored, adding that it is now up to the upcoming Greek presidency to examine this prospect and promote it.
 Cyprus parliament president meets with PM Simitis, ND leader Karamanlis
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday met with visiting Speaker of the Cyprus House of Representatives (parliament) Dimitris Christofias.
After the meeting, in reply to press questions, Christofias expressed pessimism over the prospects for resolving the Cyprus problem by February 28, due to the stance of the Turkish Cypriot side.
He said a Cyprus solution by that date was, if not impossible, at the least unfeasible, given that the Turkish Cypriot side had not presented any signs of flexibility.
He also said that the presidential elections in Cyprus would be held as scheduled, and expressed once again his thanks to the Greek government for their contribution to Cyprus' effort for EU membership.
Christofias also met later with main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, for an analytical discussion of the developments in the Cyprus issue following Cyprus' EU accession go-ahead at the EU summit in Copenhagen.
Speaking to the press after the hour-long meeting, Karamanlis congratulated the Cypriot political leadership and people for the island republic's EU accession.
He also said that the huge challenge for tough negotiations on the Annan plan aimed at a solution of the island's political problem still lay ahead, noting that substantive improvements were needed on the plan.
Karamanlis said that ND would continue to be at the side of the struggles of the Cyprus leadership and people.
Christofias thanked Karamanlis personally, and ND, for its support for Cyprus' EU membership efforts.
He reiterated that it was almost impossible for a solution to be found by February 28, unless there were radical changes in the stance of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and "certain circles" in Turkey.
Christofias said that the Cyprus government was ready to negotiate, and hoped that negotiations would indeed be forthcoming, and agreed with Karamanlis that tough negotiations were needed on the Annan plan with regard to the plan's functionality, and other aspects such as human rights, the issue of the colonists, whose continued presence in the occupied sector of Cyprus would influence "our compatriot Turkish Cypriots".
Christofias meets KKE and Coalition leaders, concludes Athens talks: Cyprus House of Representatives President and left wing AKEL party General Secretary Demetris Christofias concluded the contacts he had in Athens with meetings on Wednesday with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga and Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos.
Christofias said the meetings he had in Athens had as a pedestal a common concern, that is, how Cyprus will be rid of the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island republic and how a settlement of the Cyprus problem will serve the real interests of the Cypriots, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
The Cyprus House president said that the settlement of the Cyprus issue should be such which reunites and maintains united the people and the country, instead of dividing it.
''This is the aim, on this basis we will continue to negotiate and claim,'' he added.
 FM spokesman clarifies Verheugen's statements on Cyprus' referendums
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis on Wednesday said that European Commissioner Guenter Verheugen spoke of plebiscites in candidate member-states, since in some of them it is mandated, but in Cyprus there will only be a plebiscite on the possible resolution of the island's political problem.
Commenting on Verheugen's statements, that came as a response to a question of Greek Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos during a debate at the European Parliament, Beglitis stressed that ''on Cyprus' special case, the plebiscite prescribed in the Annan plan will occur in the event that there is a resolution of the Cyprus problem''.
''It would be a referendum on the resolution of the Cyprus problem and not a referendum on the accession of Cyprus to the European Union. Specifically, the question tabled for the Annan plan does not concern the accession, but the terms and conditions with which the accession will take place if there is a resolution,'' Beglitis said.
Earlier in the day, Verheugen said that ''in the United Nations' plan there is a 'road map' and the simultaneous holding of referendums in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. During the referendum, it is prescribed, however, that two questions will be tabled together, under the guise of 'Do you accept the proposals for the resolution of the United Nations and the accession of the island to the European Union?'.''
''It is thus impossible to have a case where the accession of Cyprus is approved and at the same time the plan to resolve the Cyprus issue disapproved. If, however, in the framework of a democratic process, the population rejects accession, we may be deeply saddened, but we have to respect that democratic decision,'' Verheugen concluded.
On his part, ruling PASOK party Eurodeputy George Katiforis communicated by telephone with the commissioner concerning, as he said, "the political exploitation of Verheugen's statements in the Greek press Alavanos is attempting".
According to a press release issued by Katiforis, ''Verheugen said that he rejected this policy of exploitation and that the meaning of what he said to the plenum was that what the two communities were responsible to judge with referendums would be whether they want to have the terms agreed by their representatives be in force, in the new political status quo that will come out of the possible agreement''.
''The communities or their population are not responsible to judge the accession of the Cyprus Republic to the European Union. This will be judged only by the processes that were mandated by the Constitution of the Cyprus Republic,'' Verheugen told Katiforis according to the press release.
 FM rejects Turkish announcement on legality of Cyprus' EU accession
BRUSSELS 19/12/2002 (ANA - B. Demiris)Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday rejected a Turkish foreign ministry announcement calling Cyprus' accession to the European Union legally and politically unacceptable.
''The issue has been tabled in the past as well, and was rejected by respected legal circles, as well as by the European Union itself. I think that the essential response is the decision of the Copenhagen Summit for Cyprus' accession to the European Union,'' Papandreou said.
 Ankara declares support for Cyprus talks on basis of Annan plan
ANKARA 19/12/2002 (ANA - A. Abatzis)Turkey was in favor of Cyprus talks based on the blueprint presented by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Turkish foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
At the same time, the ministry announcement slammed the references to Cyprus in the final communique at the EU summit in Copenhagen as ''legally and politically unacceptable'' and said that the Turkish side had not received confirmation that Athens accepted the Annan plan from the UN in Copenhagen.
Claiming that UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto had been unable to confirm that the Greek side accepted the plan, Ankara said the failure to achieve results on the Cyprus issue in Copenhagen could not be blamed on the Turkish side.
The announcement also said that the EU did not have a right to ''make unilateral decisions regarding the future of the island of Cyprus and to create international commitments, violating international agreements.''
It said that Turkey wanted a new ''associated government'' on the island that would ensure peace and existing guarantees, preserve the Greek-Turkish balance and be based on compromise, adding that Ankara was in favor of continuing negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan.
 Turkey says will continue support for Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash
ANKARA 19/12/2002 (ANA - A. Ampatzis)Turkish Presidency of the Republic spokesman Tazan Ildem, speaking on Wednesday after a meeting held on the Cyprus issue at the presidential mansion, said Turkey will continue to support the ''Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'' ('TRNC') under the leadership of "President" Rauf Denktash.
''Turkey supports a solution which will rest on a new partnership based on the security and sovereign equality of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus', the strategic interests of Turkey and the TRNC and the balance between the motherlands,'' Ildem said.
He added that ''the 'TRNC''s position for a continuation of talks based on the UN secretary general's proposals continues to hold'', adding that ''undoubtedly the 'TRNC' has followed a creative stance until today in the framework of the UN secretary general's good services mission.''
The Turkish spokesman further said ''it is Turkey's desire that the 'TRNC' should live in peace and prosperity, and with the lifting of the unfair embargo it has been facing for years, and join the international community.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of the island republic's territory. In 1983, the occupation regime unilaterally proclaimed itself an 'independent republic' which is recognized only by Ankara.
Urged to comment whether on the basis of Wednesday's announcement by the Turkish foreign ministry, terming decisions taken at the EU's Copenhagen summit inviting Cyprus to join the Union, along with other nine countries, ''politically and legally unacceptable'', an issue of the Turkish occupied territories' annexation to Turkey was raised at the meeting, Ildem said ''the talks come first'' and that ''it is an issue concerning a process which might be raised later.''
The meeting was attended by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, armed forces chief general Hilmi Ozkok and, during the part of the meeting during which the Cyprus issue was examined, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Ildem said the issue of Iraq was also probed during the meeting.
 FM and alternate FM present EU Greek presidency program
BRUSSELS 19/12/2002 (ANA - V. Demiris)Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Wednesday, referring to the message contained in the European Union's Greek presidency, the target is to promote a community of values which will recognize the citizens' right to security, democracy and a better quality of life.
Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis presented, after Athens, the Greek program of the Greek presidency during the first half of 2003.
Papandreou said EU enlargement is the Greek presidency's main priority, adding that the target is to safeguard the timetable for the accession of the 10 countries, in accordance with decisions taken at the EU's Copenhagen summit, to enable their accession treaty to be signed in Athens on April 16.
Referring to Cyprus' accession to the EU, Papandreou said ''the issue has been closed'' with the decision taken at the summit and expressed the hope that all the interested parties will show the political will for a solution on the political issue to be achieved soon and to have a reunited Cyprus join the EU.
Commenting on the summit's decision regarding Turkey, Papandreou said the country was being given a clear opportunity to become an EU member-state, but added that this depended on its position concerning its compliance with the political criteria.
He further said the fact that Greece is an EU member, Cyprus will become a member and that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots desire EU accession create an impetus which should be preserved to achieve a solution to the Cyprus issue.
Referring to other priorities contained in the Greek presidency, Yiannitsis said it will focus on shaping a policy on immigration, asylum, border control and handling illegal immigration.
Regarding the EU's foreign relations, another of the Greek presidency's priorities, Yiannitsis said emphasis will be placed on relations with Russia, the Balkans, third Mediterranean countries and Iraq.
 Turkish warplanes infringe Athens FIR
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Eight formations of Turkish warplanes made an equal number of infringements of air traffic regulations in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) on Wednesday, developing into one air space violation in the region of the northern and central Aegean, press reports said.
The 20 Turkish warplanes, five of which were armed, were recognized and intercepted by Greek fighter jets, while in five cases the interception process developed into an engagement.
Defense minister sharply criticizes latest Turkish provocations: Greece on Wednesday sharply condemned what it called “heightened provocations” by the Turkish air force over the Aegean region, with the country’s defense minister warning that the neighboring country’s behavior does not fall in line with its intense efforts of late to join the European Union.
Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou referred to repeated infringements of the Athens FIR and violations of Greek airspace over the past weeks by Turkish warplanes.
“This is not behavior befitting a country that respects itself and its neighbors,” Papantoniou said, adding that Ankara should realize that it cannot act as a “delinquent partner” within an international system that frowns upon such behavior.
Finally, he warned that such violations of Greek airspace increase the danger of “an accident ... and we must be very careful”.
He spoke during a ceremony at a facility north of Athens to unveil the first upgraded F-4 “Phantom” by Greece’s state-run Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB). At total of 34 US-made F-4s will be upgraded by EAB, a project budgeted at roughly 28 million euros.
 35 F-4E fighter jets upgraded and modernized
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Wednesday attended the welcoming ceremony for modernized F-4E fighter-jets by the Greek Air force, which took place at the installations of the Hellenic Aerospace Industry.
The main contractor for upgrading the jets' electronic systems is German-based EADS, while the Hellenic Aerospace Industry will undertake the necessary modifications for the installation of systems.
Thirty-five aircraft will be upgraded in the program that also includes contracts given to the Israeli firm Elbit Systems.
 Europarliament President Cox in Athens this week
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)European Union President Pat Cox arrives in Athens on Thursday for talks with Greek leadership, including a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis expected focus on Athens' priorities for its EU Presidency in the first half of 2003.
Simitis will meet with Cox, who will be accompanied by the heads of the Europarliament's various political groupings, on Friday at the Zappeion Hall. Earlier, Cox will address an extraordinary session of Parliament's European affairs committee.
 Constantopoulos sees period of intense change in Turkey
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)The new government in Ankara appeared determined to speed up changes for Turkey's admission to the European Union and to be genuinely interested in a solution to the Cyprus problem, Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos said on Wednesday.
Constantopoulos had just returned from successive visits to Cyprus in the two days leading up to the European Union summit in Copenhagen and to Turkey two days after it ended, during which he held talks with the political leadership in both countries.
The Coalition leader noted that all the Turkish political parties were in favor of a European direction and that all of them appeared to have a positive impression of Greece's stance.
He also noted the spirit of unity and understanding among the Greek-Cypriot parties on Cyprus and warned against undermining this through "exported patriotism" from Greece.
 President Stephanopoulos receives Deputy FM Loverdos
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos received Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos at the presidential mansion on Wednesday.
The minister briefed the president on the action that has been taken or will be taken in the immediate future, which stem from the commitments the minister undertook during his contacts at the president's official visits to Syria, Slovakia, Kazakhstan and South Africa.
 Parliament opens debate on 2003 budget
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Parliament on Wednesday began a debate on the budget for 2003 that culminates in a roll-call vote five days later.
Presenting the government bill was Anastasios Mandelis, who told deputies that next year's budget was geared to financing growth and extending social cohesion.
Growth had risen to 3.8 percent from -0.6 percent in past years, inflation fallen to 2.5 percent from 14.2 percent, and the deficit dropped from 0.9 percent from 13.6 percent, Mandelis said.
Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis has said that a key feature of the budget is incorporation of a government overhaul of social insurance and taxation.
 ND rapporteur says PM's 'good administrator' myth collapsing
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy party rapporteur Panos Panayiotopoulos, speaking in Parliament on Wednesday on the first day of the debate on the 2003 state budget, said the budget registers the collapse of three government communication myths: those considering the prime minister a ''good administrator'', the government a ''government of social sensitivity'' and government policy promoting growth and competitiveness.
The rapporteur outlined arguments invoked by ND in the past to question the government's sincerity on the state of the ''real economy.''
Panayiotopoulos said the big debt is a great burden for the Greek economy, attributing the responsibility for this to the ''over swelling party state'' and the government's inability ''to clash with its bad self.''
He also referred to social policy, saying that ''you have lost the day-to-day struggle. The Greek is being called on to be a European in austerity programs, but when the time for remuneration comes he has the feeling that he is living in a third world country.''
 Funds provided for building of SAE's new medical centre
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)The President of friends of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Antonis Doudos has offered 586,073 euros (200 million drachmas) for the building of SAE's new medical centre in Marioupolis in Ukraine.
SAE President Andrew Athens thanked Doudos for his donation on Wednesday and expressed the wish that his gesture will be followed by others.
''Thanks to Mr. Doudos' benefaction we have the possibility of providing basic treatment for our brothers who are unable to have even the most elementary medical care,'' Athens said.
The medical centre in Marioupolis will be receiving about 15,000 visits a month by patients. Its building and equipment is funded primarily by private donations, including the Niarchos Foundation.
In 48 villages populated by Greek-speaking people in the Marioupolis region live about 150,000 expatriates, while their number all over Ukraine is in the region of 250,000.
 PASOK MEP calls for pension-sharing with non-working spouse
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)In a letter to Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas on Wednesday, Greek MEP for PASOK Anna Karamanou asked the government to establish the right of non-working spouses, usually women, to participate in the pension rights acquired by their partners during the years that they were married together.
Karamanou is also chairwoman of the Committee for the Rights of Women and Equal Opportunities.
The division of pension rights would occur in the case of divorce or through an agreement of the married couple. Under present law, the non-working spouse has no right to pension or social security in the case of divorce.
Karamanou stressed in her letter that dividing up pension rights expressed the principle of equality between the sexes and the society of solidarity created through marriage.
This equality and solidarity should also require the participation of men in the economic risks run by women who stayed home to raise a family, Karamanou noted.
 Security forces unions present demands to minister
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Wednesday received trade unionists of the police force and other branches of the security forces to discuss their financial demands.
For the past week, the police have conducted a 'work-to-rule' strike, refusing to carry out any of their normal duties unless human lives were at risk.
The demands pertain to pay and special bonuses, such as a bonus for hazardous employment.
According to sources, the minister promised to make every effort to solve the police officers financial problems and the two sides agreed to continue dialogue.
Parliament speaker receives security forces union reps: Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis on Wednesday received the representatives of secondary-level union groups of the police, fire brigade and coast guard, who handed him a resolution containing the financial and other demands of staff in the security forces.
Kaklamanis assured them of Parliament's concern and understanding for their problems and said he would discuss their demands with the finance and public order ministers.
 Farm income rises in Greece, bucking EU trend
BRUSSELS 19/12/2002 (ANA/A.Simatos)Agricultural income in Greece rose by 5.7 percent in 2002, bucking the trend in the 15-nation European Union, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU average was a decline of 3.0 percent against 2001, said Eurostat, the union's statistics agency.
 Stocks slip despite late buying
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)The Athens bourse finished lower on Wednesday with players buying into high capitalization paper, especially banks and telecoms, towards the end of the session, bringing up the index.
The general share index shed 0.15 percent to end at 1,823.21 points. Turnover was 124.6 million euros, fuelled by block trades.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.19 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization paper 1.24 percent lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap equities finished 2.30 percent down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 280 to 42 with 35 issues remaining unchanged.
The most heavily traded stocks in value were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Sex Form, Cosmote, Axon and Public Power Corporation.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 54.6 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 54.6 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Greek ambassador to US speaks of Athens 2004 Games in Washington
WASHINGTON 19/12/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)Greek Ambassador to the United States G. Savvaidis on Wednesday spoke of Greece's Olympic preparations, opportunities and challenges for Greece in organizing the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Savvaidis said that the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to choose Greece for the 2004 Games, was a ''vote of confidence to the new Greece'' and it was an opportunity for the further modernization of the country, underlining that 85 per cent of all installations for the Games have already been completed, while the rest are being constructed at a speedy rate.
In presenting the security of the Games, he said that it will cost almost one billion dollars and it will include the deployment of some 50,000 police officers, military troops and other security personnel.
He added that specialists from seven countries including the US will work in Greece to achieve the best possible security for the Games.
 Greek EU presidency internet site launched
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)The Greek EU presidency has its own Internet site providing information for meetings conferences even the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, while it includes a special section for journalists.
Some sections of the www.eu2003.gr site are still under construction, but the pilot operation of the pages promise a wide coverage of the Greek EU presidency due to begin in Jan.1, 2003.
The site includes texts in three different languages Greek, English and French.
 Commissioner Diamantopoulou receives Legion of Honor medal
PARIS 19/12/2002 (ANA - O. Tsipira)Greek EU Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou on Wednesday received the Legion of Honor medal.
On behalf of French President Jacques Chirac, France's European Affairs Minister Noelle Lenoir presented the medal to Diamantopoulou at a special ceremony held at the French foreign ministry.
During the presentation of the medal, Lenoir said the Greek Commissioner received the distinction for her particularly important role in Europe, ''where she represents social Europe, that is, the Europe we want to live in,'' and her contribution in the struggle to combat discrimination.
Diamantopoulou said she was honored by the distinction as a European citizen because ''a great and collective effort is recognized in the field of social Europe, particularly today when we are proceeding with enlargement with countries with significant problems.''
 Three N17 suspects seek to bar appeals court prosecutor from case
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Three suspected members of the terrorist organization ''November 17'' on Wednesday challenged the involvement of Appeals Court Public Prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos in the ''November 17'' case, citing the European Union human rights charter and a decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
In their demand to the Appeals Justices Council, Iraklis Kostaris, Costas Karatsolis and Pavlos Serifis said that there was an issue of bias on the part of the public prosecutor, who had in the past submitted a report on terrorism to his Supreme Court counterpart.
They cite an article in the European human rights charter and a European court ruling that judicial officials that have been involved and given their opinion on a case cannot at a later date be involved in a related case.
Karoutsos is in charge of monitoring the judicial investigation.
Five more 'N17' suspects to begin hunger strike: Five more suspected members of the terrorist group ''November 17'' are to go on hunger strike in a show of solidarity with fellow-inmate and N17 suspect Angeliki Sotiropoulou, who is now in the 8th day of a hunger strike she began immediately after her wedding to Dimitris Koufodinas last week.
Alexandros Giotopoulos, Yiannis Serifis, Theologos Psaradellis, Vassilis Tzortzatos and her husband Dimitris Koufodinas will from Thursday refuse food, it was announced.
Prison authorities said they expected the development and would use the same tactic as with Sotiropoulou, delivering food to their cells each day as normal. They said Psaradellis might be placed under the supervision of the prison doctor due to various health problems that he suffers from.
 Greece, Bulgaria sign sports exchange program agreement
Athens, 19/12/2002 (ANA)Deputy Sports Minister George Lianis and Bulgarian Sports and Youth Minister Vassil Ivanov on Wednesday signed a program of sports exchanges for 2003, in Athens.
The program includes some 19 sports federations among others of basketball, fencing and boxing.
''We signed a significant agreement, which was prepared very well and concerns a wide cooperation in all athletic issues of the two countries,'' Lianis said.
''The signing of a protocol is very important for us and the best we signed in the past 20 years, it strengthens our relationship, the friendship of the two countries in the sports sector,'' Ivanov said.
 FM Kasoulides says UN Security Council to express support to Annan's plan
NICOSIA 19/12/2002 (CNA/ANA)Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has said that deliberations on a UN Security Council statement on Cyprus, expected late on Wednesday, are proceeding well and dismissed concerns that the statement would link the political settlement with the Republic's accession to the European Union.
Commenting on press reports claiming that Britain had asked the Council to adopt a statement to this effect, Kasoulides said that ''a Security Council statement cannot legally link such matters together,'' adding that no such connection would be made in the prospective statement.
He said that those who drafted the statement understand that there could be no connection of these matters and consequently there should be no concerns of this kind.
Asked if the Security Council will adopt a UN proposal on a comprehensive settlement, Kasoulides replied negatively and said that the Council will express its support to Annan's plan, to the Secretary General himself, to the timetables he has set out and to his good offices mission.
Invited to say whether timetables set out by Kofi Annan would change, Kasoulides said that he did not think it would be productive right now to change the timetables.
''These are the timetables set out by the Secretary General and they are respected,'' he added.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou referring to the forthcoming Council statement said that at this stage one must call a spade a spade and added that the Council should name those who are responsible for the lack of progress and the absence of a settlement.
Papapetrou said the Security Council will try to maintain the momentum for a settlement, created by Annan's peace plan, and express its support for the Annan's attempts to clinch a settlement by February 28.
''Exactly how this political resolve will be set out, we need to wait until tonight,'' he added.
Commenting on the same reports on British moves about the content of the Council statement, he said Britain and its envoy on Cyprus should not be blamed for everything negative that happens or is said to occur.
 Rasmussen urges all parties to find Cyprus settlement
BRUSSELS 19/12/2002 (CNA/ANA)Danish Prime Minister and President of the European Council, Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged all parties involved in Cyprus on Wednesday to make use of the unique opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem.
In a speech before the plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg which examined the deliberations of the Copenhagen European Council, Rasmussen referred to Cyprus, noting that everyone will benefit from a solution.
Cyprus, he said, will accede the EU divided. However there is a real possibility that the parties will be able to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem before February 28, 2003, on the basis of the UN Secretary-General's proposal for Cyprus.
Rasmussen invited all parties involved to make use "of this unique opportunity to solve this tragic conflict."
"We will all profit from an immediate solution to the Cyprus problem and no one will benefit more than the people of Cyprus," he concluded.
European Union leaders, in the conclusions of the Copenhagen European Council, said that as accession negotiations have been completed with Cyprus, the island would be admitted as a new EU member state.
The UN has called on the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides to negotiate a UN proposal for a comprehensive settlement and reach an agreement by the end of February. Cyprus is set to sign the EU Treaty of Accession in mid April.
 Cyprus urges Turkey and Denktash to listen to Turkish Cypriot calls
NEW YORK 19/12/2002 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus, through its Permanent Representative at the UN, Sotos Zakhaios, urged the Turkish leadership and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on Wednesday to listen to the yearning of Turkish Cypriots who have shown with courage their preference for finalizing a solution and accession of a reunited Cyprus to the EU.
In a speech entitled ''European Union Enlargement-Cyprus after Copenhagen'', during a gathering in New York organized by the Cyprus-American Federation and the World Coordinating Committee-Justice for Cyprus, Zakhaios also said that a just and workable solution of the Cyprus problem will enhance the Greco-Turkish rapprochement and stability in the Mediterranean.
The Copenhagen Summit concluded last week that Cyprus will be one of the ten countries that will become members of the EU as of May 1, 2004. The European Council also called on the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to continue negotiations with the objective of concluding a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem by the February 28, 2003.
Zakhaios repeated the government is ''very pleased about the decision of the European Council concerning our accession to the EU,'' and quoted the President of the Republic that ''our joy for this historic day would be complete if the Cyprus problem were already solved.''
''Despite our disappointment at the intransigence of the Turkish side, we will respond positively to the appeal by the European Council and we are ready to negotiate in good faith as we believe that the problem must be solved in order to safeguard the prosperity, security, understanding and respect of the human rights of all the people of Cyprus, without discrimination,'' he added.
Cyprus' Permanent Representative at the UN said ''we understand the disappointment of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots over the absence of a Cyprus settlement, and once more their leadership has let them down.''
He said their ''spontaneous mass demonstrations last Friday and during the weekend should serve as a reminder to Mr. Denktash that the true interests of the Turkish Cypriots will be served with the reunification of the island under a just and workable agreement and the membership of Cyprus to the EU.''
He reiterated an appeal to the Turkish leadership and to Denktash ''that they listen to the yearning of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, who have shown with courage their preference for finalizing a solution and accession of a reunited Cyprus to the EU.''
''We call on them to help find a solution which will enhance and safeguard conditions of peaceful cooperation amongst the two communities in a reunified island, and terminating the division of the country and its people,'' he added.
''A just, viable and workable solution of the Cyprus problem meets the interests of the Cypriot people and will enhance the Greco-Turkish rapprochement as well as stability and co-operation in a crucial region of the Mediterranean,'' he said.
 President Clerides to proclaim presidential elections on January 3
NICOSIA 19/12/2002 (CNA/ANA)President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides will proclaim on January 3, 2003 presidential elections for February 16 and the 23rd, if there is a second round, said government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou on Wednesday.